With 2020 now upon us and another year of incredible stories ahead, the North Kitsap Herald decided to take a look back 100 years ago to check out some of the key stories from the 1920s.
The first thing to note about the North Kitsap Herald of 1920 was that is was called the Kitsap County Herald and, as the name implies, its coverage area was all of Kitsap County.
The second thing to note is that much of the front page news was dedicated to national news and editorials, the contents of which in some cases would be considered unfit to print by today’s standards. However, the thoughts shared were reflective of their time and serve as a stark reminder of our nation’s troubled past regarding race, religion, and gender.
1920s top stories
Many of the top stories of the 1920s concerned prohibition, women’s suffrage, freedom of the press and of course the national, state and local elections.
One of the first articles published for the new year was published on Jan. 2, 1920 is an observation of the oath of practice that lawyers take, which in this time included upholding the laws around prohibition.
“The oath contained the same pledge to support the constitution of the United States, but the constitution has changed,” writes the author, James Wesley Bryan, a former lawyer and eventual Washington State Representative. “When these lawyers took their oath to support the constitution of the United States. I turned to a friend sitting beside me and said, ‘ now they are White Ribboners.”
Bryan was referencing the white sashes worn by the women of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Bryan’s observation goes on to discuss the international ramifications of prohibition by recounting an encounter he had with an Englishman at a hotel. The Englishman who was appalled by the policy exclaimed that millionaires were leaving the states as a result of prohibition, Bryan countered the claim and said that in America, they could make more millionaires to replace those that leave, especially if the English and Europeans would pay the states the $10 billion that they owed after World War I. A topic that would be discussed after the formation of the League of Nations just a few days later.
Bryan closes his story with a warning that now when a person takes an oath of office that includes the U.S. Constitution, the oath includes support for the WCTU and prohibition.
As previously mentioned, much of the front page news was national news and letters to- and in some cases about- the editor, Peter Iverson. Iverson was often accused of being a socialist and a radical.
An editorial piece in a January 1921 paper addresses accusations regarding Iverson and reaffirms the paper’s commitment to its readership in spite of the accusations.
“The Herald is read by thousands all over the county. The people of the county read the Herald because they believe in it. The Herald aims to stand for the best there is in life- truth, justice, and fairness to all. The Herald has always stood for loyalty and patriotism … Those who support the Herald are the very backbone of our citizenship,” reads the editorial.
As 1920 was an election year, there were plenty of stories concerning politics and political leanings. Beginning with coverage of the efforts of suffragettes to earn women the right to vote in August and ending with the election of Warren G. Harding and Vice President Calvin Coolidge and total Republican control of the nation, state and local politics.
At the same time, there was a piece of legislation that had the residents of Kitsap County up in arms: a debate around the potential removal of the direct primary law, which had been established in 1907.
Washington State Legislature established the first direct primary system for partisan candidates, requiring political parties to choose their nominees through a public primary. In this system, separate ballots are printed for each political party and voters may only cast ballots in one party’s primary. This policy remained in place until 1935 when Washington State established a “blanket” primary system which remained in effect until 2003.
Contributors to Kitsap County Herald in 1920 predicted that an effort would be made to get rid of the direct primary policy by the newly elected all-Republican national, state and county governments, which they believed could not only do away with this policy but would hinder their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
“The direct primary law has been a safeguard against clique rule and bossism; but the bossism that would come now, if the profiteers and combination sharks get into power, would make all former bossisms and high handedness as nothing compared with what would be enacted. Special interests at this time fear popular liberty more than ever. It will behoove people to be on their guard and use Initiative and Referendum to safeguard their rights,” reads the article regarding 1920 election results.
This look into the past is a reminder of how far the nation has come and how much it still can improve.
Words of wisdom
Another nugget of wisdom from this archive of the past still rings true today: what it takes to keep a paper like the Kitsap County Herald (North Kitsap Herald) going.
“No paper can exist without advertisers and to have advertisers, and give them returns, it must have readers.”